Yelm Community Schools has chosen Zach Miller as its new head baseball coach for the 2021-22 school year.
Miller has 12 years of coaching under his belt, aggregately, at the league, high school and college levels. He was most recently the assistant coach with the Tacoma Community College Titans for five years.
Miller said he’s had rewarding experiences as a coach as he helped high school athletes sign on with colleges and two-year institutions that later earned spots at larger universities.
He said coaching goes beyond the simple instruction of how to play the game.
“The thing about sports is, a lot of times it’s about the play, but it’s also about helping the person through maybe a difficult, maybe a fun, maybe a cool part of their life,” Miller said. “To have a little, small part of that, I think, is the most rewarding thing.”
Miller’s family is based out of Roy, but Miller was a Yelm High School athlete.
“I know the type of player, athlete, Yelm gets,” he said. “It’s probably changed a little bit, you know, since I’ve been gone, but you’re going to get the blue-collar kid, the guys that are working around their sports schedule. And sports may not be the number one thing for them, but I think Yelm’s got a good pool of talent to win and have successful programs.”
He said he’s especially seen this in recent years, as he kept tabs on the sports in the district.
Miller said playing sports is a way for students to invest in their lives.
“I think that playing sports is a catalyst for life,” he said. “Sports closely resemble the world. Like, if you have an issue, you need to talk to your boss. Well, baseball is the same way. If you have an issue, maybe go talk to the head coach.”
Sports help kids navigate difficult life situations, Miller said, saying that baseball helped him learn how to speak up for himself and advocate for his own success. He said he wants to provide a similar environment for other athletes.
Baseball teaches discipline, accountability and a drive to improve, Miller said.
He said he wants the athletes to be able to celebrate what they were able to build and accomplish in baseball during high school, no matter their ability level.
Aside from that, he hopes to carve out time for the students to be kids as well, he said.
“It’s a getaway,” Miller said. “Sports are supposed to be fun. … I think that baseball is a very special game.”
Academic success, he said, has to come first, and he will help mentor kids to achieve that success as a way to progress their baseball careers.
Miller recalled times where he took great athletes with poor grades into the community college arena, and encouraged them to improve their academic standing to earn a spot at a four-year school with better career opportunities.
He said he wants to focus on efficient practices, where athletes are given lots of experience with hitting. He also wants to take time to focus on each kid’s areas of emphasis, knowing that many high school athletes play multiple positions with several pitchers per team.
Miller also wants to create role models within his program.
“I want the older guys to teach the younger guys,” he said, adding that he really appreciated being given the chance to look up to older Yelm athletes as he was growing up.
In his first year as a coach, Miller said he wants to establish a program that’s relationship-driven.
“I think year one is just (to) get to know the students,” he said, adding that he wants to get reacquainted with the sporting culture around baseball in Yelm. “I think it’s just getting my feet wet and trying to instill some aspects of what the culture will be, what the team attitude will be like and how things will go.”
He also said he wants to be competitive and give as few games away to other programs as possible.
His five-year plan will build on the culture he sets up in year one, Miller said.
“I think to be in contention, to be a state-playoff team in five years would be huge,” he said.